August 21, 2017 12:48 am JST

Pyongyang rails against US-South Korea war games

Annual drills 'the most explicit expression of hostilities,' says party mouthpiece

KENICHI YAMADA, Nikkei staff writer

SEOUL -- The U.S.-South Korean military exercises scheduled from Monday through Aug. 31 will be like "pouring gasoline on fire," North Korea's ruling party mouthpiece warned Sunday.

The annual maneuvers, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, are "the most explicit expression of hostilities against us," proclaimed the Rodong Sinmun -- the newspaper of the Workers' Party -- urging Washington to exercise restraint and to not deploy nuclear aircraft carriers and strategic bombers to the Korean Peninsula.

"If the United States is lost in a fantasy that war on the peninsula is at somebody else's doorstep far away from them across the Pacific, it is far more mistaken than ever," it said.

North Korea has pushed back every year against these drills. In 2016, it fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on the third day. The U.S., South Korea and other nations are bracing for a military provocation again this year.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday attended the swearing-in ceremony of his new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, becoming the South's first sitting president to do so. Moon pledged to use every power at his disposal to bolster the country's defenses.

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, met with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo here, also on Sunday. Harris reaffirmed that the U.S. is committed to protecting South Korea from the North's threat, and that the allies are prepared to meet any provocation, according to the South's Yonhap News Agency.

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